The president opened his address in Murphysboro with another condemnation of the tragic events of the day.
"This evil anti-Semitic attack is an assault on all of us,” the president said. “It's an assault on humanity. It will require all of us working together to extract the hateful poison of anti-Semitism from the world.”
"The scourge of anti-Semitism cannot be ignored, cannot be tolerated and cannot be allowed to continue," he continued, adding, "We have to bring back the death penalty. They have to pay the ultimate price."
Earlier in the day, at a speech in Indianapolis, Trump explained why he intended to go ahead with his rally, after he’d considered canceling it as the tragedy in Pittsburgh unfolded.
“You know, we can’t let evil change our life and change our schedule,” the president said. “We can’t do that. We have to go and do whatever we were going to do, otherwise we give them too much credit. We make them too important. And, you go with a heavy heart but you go. You don’t want to change your life. You can’t make them important. These are bad people. You can’t allow them to dominate what we do.”
He also compared his decision to hold the Saturday-night MAGA event to the New York Stock Exchange opening six days after the September 11 attacks.
At the start of the event, it seemed like the audience might get a more muted Trump. The president suggested that, given the gravity of the tragedy in Pittsburgh, he would pull back on some of his traditional base-rallying lines.
"If you don't mind, I'm going to tone it down, just a little bit," Trump said. "Is that OK?" The crowd responded with an audible “No.”
Then the president seemed to oblige them, launching into his traditional campaign stump routine with its usual liberal bogeymen: he warned about a Congress led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); trumpeted his own accomplishments, including the appointment of two Supreme Court justices and the Republican tax plan; and labeled his opponents with offensive monikers.
“This will be the election of the caravans, the Kavanaughs, law and order, tax cuts and you know what else, it’s going to be the election of common sense,” Trump said.
The White House and conservatives have been talking up the Central American migrant caravan for weeks, with some falsely saying that Democratic financier and philanthropist George Soros was funding it. Soros was one of many figures in and around the Democratic party to be targeted with mail bombs last week. On Friday, police arrested Cesar Sayoc in Florida in connection with the bombings.
The alleged Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, Robert Bowers, had fixated on the caravan in the days leading up to the attack, ranting about Jewish aid groups supposedly bringing “invaders in that kill our people.”
“We don’t want caravans. We’re not having caravans,” Trump exulted to the rally-goers as a chant of “Build the Wall!” broke out.
He also lamented that people criticize him unfairly, including fellow conservatives and Weekly Standard editor-at-large Bill Kristol, whom he mentioned by name.
“You have the haters and they continue to hate,” Trump said. “These are foolish and very stupid people.”
“Some guy named Kristol, Bill Kristol. He called it wrong from day one. He said ‘he’s not going to run’ OK, I ran. ‘He is not going to win the primaries,’ OK I won the primaries. ‘He will not win the election,’ I won the election,” Trump continued. “These are losers, why do they put them on television?”
On a long riff about potential 2020 presidential challengers, Trump once again brought up his derisive moniker for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
“We can’t use Pocahontas anymore, she’s got no Indian blood!” he told a man in the crowd. “I have more than she does and I have none. So I can’t call her Pocahontas anymore but I think I will anyway, do you mind?”
And so it went, like always.